Medical Technology

UK COVID-19 Cases Reach Record High Second Day

LONDON (Reuters) The number of new cases of COVID-19 in Britain have surpassed a record for the second day in a row on Thursday, when England’s Chief Medical Officer warned daily hospital admissions could reach new heights due to the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant.

Britain reported new infections of 88,376; the most since the outbreak and an increase of about 10,000 since Wednesday’s previous record.

The escalating number of cases is putting pressure on a health system which is struggling with staff sickness England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said on Thursday.

Omicron is so transmissible that even if it is found to be less severe than other variants, it can still result in a rise in hospital admissions, Whitty told lawmakers.

In January, 4,583 people were admitted to hospitals with COVID-19.

He suggested that it is possible because the amount of the virus over a short time span, even if it is milder, could lead to a higher number than those who visit hospitals every day.

He said that vaccinations could reduce the number of patients admitted to intensive care and decrease the time spent in hospitals. There were 849 admissions on Thursday.

Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser for the UK Health Security Agency, said there were 15 confirmed cases of Omicron in hospitals, but the number was likely to be much higher.

Although new cases were at a record high according to official figures, Britain did not have mass testing facilities in March 2020 , when the pandemic began to strike the country. As a result, the scale of infections at the time isn’t known.

A senior emergency physician said hospitals, especially in London were struggling to keep staffing levels due to the number who are having to isolate with COVID-19.

“Even if we are not seeing a significant increase in hospitalisations right now we are already seeing the effects of not having the personnel to conduct shifts in a proper manner and safely,” Katherine Henderson, an emergency consultant in London and president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine she told BBC Radio.

“So we are concerned about the possibility of harm to patients because we just don’t have the resources to handle it.”

The education minister warned of staff shortages, and said that his department would assist former teachers who want to return to teaching.

Britain believes that booster vaccinations can prevent Omicron-related serious illness.

The government has also advised people to work from home, mandated wearing a mask in public areas and has introduced COVID-19 passes to access certain events and venues in England, but has stopped from implementing previous measures to prevent lockdowns.

“If it appeared as if the vaccines were less efficient than we expected, that for example would be a significant change in the way that ministers view risk going forward,” Whitty said.

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